Automated Guided Vehicles, or AGVs, have been in existence since the 1950s, although they have undergone considerable improvements in engineering since that time. When Barrett Electronics debuted the first AGV, it was guided by a wire in the floor and performed onlyh simple towing tasks. Up until recently, AGVs have been used primarily in industrial manufacturing environments where they performed repetitive tasks in defined surroundings with specific constants. Today’s AGVs range on a spectrum of complexity from that same simple machine that moves parts from one defined location to another to machines that are capable of working with each other in fleets, navigating over rough terrain. Let’s explore what makes AGVs in such high demand now.
Flexible – The flexible technology used in AGVs have rendered them useful for many different tasks. It’s difficult to relocate or shift a conveyor system, but with the wireless technology AGVs use, it’s relatively simple and quick to remap a route and continue production. Today complex AGVs are equipped with sensors, clamping mechanisms, positioning fixtures, and tool attachments and, as such, are useful across a variety of sectors in many industries, including healthcare, military, and transportation. They can work alone or in tandem with other AGVs.
Accurate – AGV computer systems can be coordinated with warehouse management systems. This allows for companies to track every detail of material handling and make adjustments to increase accuracy and efficiency. An AGV will do as it is programmed to do each and every time. It will never get bored by repetitive tasks or distracted by workplace or social activity.
Safe – AGVs can operate in a number of environments that otherwise might be hazardous for people, including those with exposure to extreme temperatures, gases, chemicals, sharp objects, or biological contaminants. A damaged AGV can be repaired or replaced without the same problems or liabilities worker injuries or health hazards create for companies and people.
Productive – AGVs can work continuously around the clock without breaks. They do not get sick. They will do a task continuously for as long as necessary without flagging or complaining. They maintain a constant speed, never hurrying or rushing to complete a task before the end of the work period.
Much has been made lately about AGVs and other types of automation replacing people in the workplace and what that means for society and the economy. This is true in some cases, but it’s also true that AGVs will do work that people cannot or will not do. In these cases AGVs are a win-win solution for everyone because their work must be monitored, adjusted, or completed by human workers who are then employed to do it. As manufacturers upgrade their facilities to become smarter and more efficient, AGVs will play a larger and more important part in day-to-day operations. We have only begun to see what AGVs are capable of doing in the workplace.